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Farmers becoming farmer-entrepreneurs

Surinder Sud  |  New Delhi 

From being mere farmers to becoming farmer-entrepreneurs is the big transformation taking place in the lives of numerous farmers in northern states. This is happening under an initiative by the New Delhi-based Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI, or Pusa Institute) to involve farmers in the production of seeds of crop varieties developed by it. Grain-growers are being helped to take up the lucrative business of seed production under this programme.

Besides improving the income of the farmers, this initiative has helped augment the availability of quality seeds to boost overall farm productivity. “Crop yields generally increase by 20 to 30 per cent with the use of fresh and good quality seeds. Seed producer farmers, on the other hand, can earn a net profit of up to Rs 1 lakh per hectare,” IARI Director H S Gupta told Business Standard.

This programme, confined initially to areas around Delhi, has been extended to states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and beyond through the IARI’s region research stations located in these states. Scientists in the Pusa Institute provide the knowhow and guidance to the farmers to produce good quality seed.

“Nothing is being charged from the farmers for this, though IARI charges an initial sum and royalty from private seed companies which take up the multiplication of seeds of Pusa varieties. The objective of farmers’ involvement in seed multiplication is to disseminate technology and boost the availability of good quality Pusa seeds,” Gupta said.

Many of the seed farmers have started seed-based small commercial enterprises either individually or as farmers’ cooperatives. Such enterprises have already come up in the districts of Karnal in Haryana and Bullandshahar and Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh. The trend is catching up.

Each of these enterprises is producing 300-500 quintals of seeds of wheat and rice every year for sale to the farmers in the nearby areas. The IARI scientists monitor their seed crops, besides providing overall guidance. “The seeds produced by these entrepreneurs are tested for physical purity, germination and seed health at the Seed Testing Laboratory at the Pusa campus in Delhi,” Gupta said, adding that these farmer groups were being encouraged to form federations to further boost their profits through scale.

The participation of farmers in seed production has helped increase the total output of seeds of Pusa crop varieties from around 5,000 quintals in 2005-06 to over 11,000 quintals in 2009-10. A little less than half of these seeds are now being produced by the farmers and farmer-entrepreneurs.

This apart, IARI has also roped in big private seed companies for the production of seeds of aromatic rice hybrid and basmati rice varieties. Of the 18 seed companies with which memorandums of understanding have been signed by IARI for seed production, 17 will produce the seeds of the Pusa rice hybrid, PRH 10. The grains of this high-yielding hybrid rice are superfine and aromatic, similar to that of basmati, though this variety is not technically qualified to be called basmati rice.

Gupta says that the expansion of area under this rice hybrid and the resultant increase in the availability of stocks of this rice will bring aromatic basmati-like rice within the economic reach of ordinary people.

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First Published: Tue, May 25 2010. 16:18 IST